Background reading and resources:
This is a brief summary of a few of the main ideas in the papers and resources listed above, as well as thoughts that came out of a conversation with Clayton Lewis and the Community for All design institute. Much research and work has been done in this area; for more details please refer to the specific resources above, and feel free to add any that you find useful.
The Complexity of Simplification
- simplification can take many forms
- what is simple for one user may introduce complexity for another
- e.g. showing a Table of Contents may help some users navigate the page while adding complexity for others
- allowing for customization is the best way to ensure that all users' needs are met, however consider:
- consider the complexity of the configuration apparatus (e.g. the process of selecting items to show/hide in a toolbar is often buried in a menu and/or requires a number of steps to complete)
- context-dependent, dynamically configuring interfaces can introduce complexity for users who rely on proceduralisation (memorised steps) to complete a task
Depth vs. Breadth in Interface Design
- consider the trade-off of reduced clutter with having to navigate through multiple layers of the interface
- maintaining intention through multiple layers can be difficult for some users
- adding depth introduces the need for appropriate and clear conceptual categorisation
- also need good-quality cues to indicate the logic of categories
Designing for Self-advocacy - Main Considerations
- quick access to word meanings (dictionary on demand)
- consistent use of icons and symbols across the space
- the use of standard readability tests
- results of standard readability tests on naturally-occurring text are usually accurate, however, once a text has been modified to achieve a higher readability score, the results may become inaccurate
- e.g. chopping up sentences into shorter sentences improves readability score but can actually make the text more difficult to comprehend
- trying to avoid complex words based on assumptions about user comprehension can make text more difficult to comprehend
- depending on the context, using plain language may actually introduce complexity by replacing commonly-understood words or expressions (e.g. "security deposit")
- a better solution would be to provide word definitions on demand
The Role of Assistance
- want to encourage peer-to-peer assistance as much as possible
- to support user autonomy
- to give all users opportunity to contribute as well as receive help
- to facilitate growth of a supportive community for every user
- to facilitate participation in a community
- how can we design tools/functionality to support mutual aid between users?
- social matching - finding others who have similar needs
- sharing of preference sets/configurations/customized content between users is one way of achieving this
- consider also the role of family and non-expert service providers - how can the tools we design support their role in providing assistance while continuing to support user autonomy?
- e.g. allowing an assistant to pre-configure an interface - how can user confirm that their needs are being met?
- how can the tools we design allow a user to discover for themselves what their preferences are?
The Role of User Testing
- while frequent and early user testing is important, this design approach can still result an interface which is inaccessible to many users
- engaging in a co-design process where a broad range of end-users contribute to the design from inception to implementation means that user needs are more likely to be met
User as Designer